Already under a lot of pressure of far-right movements, populists and right-nationalists, the European Union (EU) and its future face a new challenge due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the past two decades, the “threat” of Islam, terrorism, the steady influx of (unwanted) immigrants and Brexit have created fertile soil for nationalism and xenophobia, and the Coronavirus crisis only adds up to that.
Let’s not forget that in many European countries far-right can already count about thirty percent of the voters to their followers, countries such as France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, just to name a few nations, and the Corona crisis could mean the last straw that breaks the Camel’s back to reach a fifty-one percent majority in the near future.
To give an example and reminder of what’s happening: the last presidential elections in France, in 2017, one of the key countries in the EU, were between Marine Le Pen of the National Front (a right-wing populist and nationalist political party) and Emmanuel Macron of En Marche (a centrist and liberal political party). Luckily, I would say, Macron won the elections (66.1% voting Macron and 33.9% voting Le Pen), but that it need to come to that choice for the French people, says it all.
Today, Amelie de Montchalin, the French state secretary of European affairs, said that the way the European Union as a whole handles the COVID-19 crisis will shape the future credibility of the EU. “If Europe is only a union in good times, then the Union has no use,” she stated.
Last Thursday, leaders of EU Member States discussed the economic impact of the Coronavirus and the preparations for future recovery when it’s over. Southern Member States are outraged at the refusal of some Northern Member States to pledge more aid.
For instance, Germany and the Netherlands formed a front against efforts of Italy, Spain, Portugal and France to put together an economic support package with joint bonds. There was also disagreement about sharing medical supplies and about border controls.
The situation surrounding the virus raises existential questions for the EU, and “Our Europe is one of action, of solidarity, and if certain countries see it differently, the question of their place in the EU will automatically arise, as will what the Union should do as a group of 27 Member States,” Amelie de Montchalin remarked.
The French secretary of state also warned that populist political parties in the EU will be the winners if European leaders fail to pull together during the Corona crisis.
One thing is sure though, the current relationships between EU Member countries and the European peoples are tense and stressful, and I fear that the COVID-19 crisis will finally lead to the complete disintegration of the Union.
In fact, a development already underway, such as Brexit and rising electoral gains for far-right movements, a Union already under pressure, now getting its final blow and having its immune system paralyzed